There is so much talk about homosexuality in Africa, must of which is negative. But, the fact still remains that not enough Africans can boast of semi-understanding sexuality and most of the common knowledge in the communities and leaderships are governed by myth. So in a bid to set the record straight we are fighting illiteracy with simple facts that are slowly changing the dynamic of gay rights in Africa;
Not everyone in Africa is Homophobic:
While homosexuality is still illegal in these 38 African countries; (Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). There is no criminal law against homosexuality in these 16 African countries; (Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda and South Africa). People still refer to the anti-gay stance as totally African, this is not true because there is a clear divide and not all African communities fully and blindly embrace LGBT violence.
Progress is slow but evident:
In countries like; Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria, and southern Somalia, individuals found guilty of ‘homosexuality’ face the death penalty and the recent years have witnessed attempts to further criminalize homosexuality in Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, and Nigeria. Progress can be seen as countries like; Cape Verde decriminalized homosexuality in 2004, and since 2009, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Seychelles have also committed to decriminalizing homosexuality. Meaning that the talk of gay rights isn’t stagnant and unprogressive, Zimbabwe and a few other African countries are already implementing healthcare and legal reforms in support of gay rights. South Africa has seen a number of positive legal developments over the past decade, including allowing joint adoption by same-sex couples in 2002, introducing a law on legal gender recognition in 2004, and equal marriage for same-sex couples in 2006. This is a sign of moving forward, slow but imminent.
There is a focus on LGBT violence:
Cases of LGBT violence are steadily being swept out from under the rug as there is a spotlight on these issues and more people are speaking up. In Nigeria, people now openly criticize the media when they endanger the lives of LGBT persons as seen with the case of Linda Ikeji. We also know that in Cameroon, people arrested on suspicion of being gay can be subjected to forced anal exams in an attempt to obtain ‘proof’ of same-sex sexual conduct because victims are speaking up and condemning these actions. While most of this issues reflect badly on the poor legal system and lack of acceptance in Africa, there is no doubt that the focus on these issues will lead to more discussions on gay rights and ultimately help build a better understanding of homosexuality in Africa.
We now know homosexuality has long been part of Africa’s culture.
In most countries, anti-gay laws are a legacy of colonialism, but surprisingly some national leaders magically frame homosexuality as alien to African culture. Well history and archaeological facts are proving them wrong, as a cave painting in Zimbabwe depicting male-male sex is over 2000 years old and historically, woman-woman marriages have been documented in more than 40 ethnic groups in Africa including in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Sudan. Even the oldest recorded gay couple was found in Eygpt and is said to date back to 2400 B.C. So obviously homosexuality has been part of our culture but recent generations have decided to use hate to address it due to religious and colonial influences.
Homophobia is doing more harm than good:
In the past some African countries and conservative leaders openly and falsely accused LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) individuals of spreading HIV/AIDS and of ‘converting’ children to homosexuality and thus increasing levels of hatred and hostility towards LGBTI people within the broader population. But, facts and research have discovered that homophobia and discrimination is giving HIV/AIDS a big boast in numbers. LGBTI individuals are more likely to experience discrimination when accessing health services. This makes them less likely to seek medical care when needed, making it harder to undertake HIV prevention work for, and to deliver treatment where it is available. Aside from the health risks, homophobia is feeding violence as lesbians are more often deliberately targeted for sexual violence. Some men/family members deem this practice “curative” or “corrective” rape, laboring under the belief that if the victim has sex with a man, she will be “cured” of being a lesbian.
The case of gay rights in Africa is clearly a gloomy one but then dynamic is changing and the efforts for a safer and discrimination free society are well in the works.
The post contains facts and research from Amnesty International